Why you have to consider the negative when making ad decisions
How did an Australian clothing company wind up sending thousands of customers a marketing email that threatened to release compromising photos of them “everywhere”?
While the idea is shocking, the way it most likely came to happen isn’t unusual. We see it often – a clever marketing campaign is developed, but along the way nobody stops to ask what could go wrong. The battle to stay ahead of the competition is fierce, and too many fail to realize they’re running towards crisis until they run smack into a wall of angry stakeholders. Aussie publication B&T shared more detail on the contents of the controversial mail in question from clothing brand YP Threads:
The email, which went out to 17,000 people, read something like this:
“Remember that party where you got totally shit-canned?
“I have the photos of you doing some really, really weird stuff. I’m holding it ransom.
“I’ll give it back, but only if you re-friend me on Facebook and buy some of my threads.
“If you don’t get back to me in 48 hours, the photos will be everywhere – at your work, at your school, under your pillow.”
According to Triple J’s Hack program, once the email recipients had followed YP Threads’ orders, the email said they would be provided with a map to retrieve the photos, ending with: “We know where you live. Time starts now.”
Though YP Threads specializes in party clothes and does make use of sarcasm and humor throughout operations, it only took about an hour after the mail went out for leadership to realize they had crossed the line. Fortunately they were quick to take action, and an explanation/apology went out almost immediately, neutralizing much of the anger they could have faced. Though there were still angry customers, the rapid followup prevented many from reaching the boiling point.
Advertising can’t exist in a vacuum. Before you get past the concept stage of any new ad campaign you need to take a hard look at how it could be misinterpreted, what unexpected parties might be offended, and what other negative fallout it may create. If you can, run the idea past someone outside of your organizational bubble. Whether you use a consultant, a trusted colleague, or your own family, an outside perspective can be invaluable in spotting issues you may miss because you’re just too close.
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